Schoolyard Picks: How People Evaluate Friend Potential in Others

Psychology In Action

We all use a variety of clues to figure out whether a person we’re interacting with is going to like us. After all, being rejected hurts, and we typically would rather not pursue a friendship with someone who might reject us. To determine whether we’re likely to be rejected by a potential friend, we might notice whether we share the same hobbies, whether we dress similarly, or whether the person is acting in a friendly manner to us—making eye contact, that sort of thing.

Recent research by Dr. Jenessa Shapiro takes this process a step further, finding that we pay attention not only to what the potential friend does personally, but also to their own friendships. Shapiro and colleagues presented White college students with a Black potential friend, pictured either alone, with a White friend, or with a Black friend. The idea was that seeing a Black potential friend who…

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